Whether you’re a weekend warrior, a seasoned athlete, or are recovering from another form of injury, hot and cold therapy, sometimes called contrast therapy, can help. Applying heat and then cold to a given area can help speed up your recovery, getting you back on your feet and ready to perform sooner. In this blog post, we’re going to look at how hot and cold contrast therapy can help you.

Understanding Contrast Therapy

Before we get into contrast therapy, we need to understand what the application of heat and/or cold can do for injury recovery. 

Cold Therapy & Cryotherapy Benefits

Cold therapy works by introducing cold temperatures to the injured area which can help reduce pain and swelling. This could be as simple as an ice pack or a dedicated cryotherapy device that can deliver a range of cold temperatures. Imagine plunging your injury directly into a deep ice bath or a pile of snow… that’s the essence of cryotherapy. Temperatures ranging from 0°C down to -5°C are used to:

  • Reduce inflammation: Cold constricts blood vessels, which helps reduce and prevent inflammatory cells from reaching the area that can cause swelling and pain.
  • Numb pain and promote healing: The cold disrupts pain signals offering effective pain relief in the short term, and by slowing blood flow to the area, cryotherapy can help minimise tissue damage and encourage recovery.

Thermotherapy Benefits

Thermotherapy is the opposite of cryotherapy and uses warm temperatures to promote healing and recovery. Thermotherapy usually uses heat between 38°C and 45°C and works by:

  • Increasing blood flow: Heat dilates blood vessels, delivering the oxygen and nutrients that are vital for healing and recovery.
  • Relaxing muscles: The warmth of thermotherapy helps to soothe and relax muscles to improve flexibility and reduce stiffness, helping you get back to training sooner.
  • Easing chronic pain: Heat therapy can alleviate pain associated with arthritis, muscle spasms, and chronic conditions. It can also be very effective at reducing pain after operations and other procedures.
CTC-7 Recovery Device with Knee Wrap

What is Contrast Therapy?

Contrast therapy is a combination of hot and cold therapy, often used in quick succession. By taking the benefits of both cryotherapy and thermotherapy and putting them into one treatment, the effects can complement each other.

  • Enhanced blood flow: The alternating temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict and dilate, helping to improve circulation and deliver oxygen and nutrients to the affected area.
  • Reduced inflammation: The initial cold phase tackles inflammation, while the heat promotes healing in the later phase.
  • Improved range of motion: Increased blood flow and reduced muscle tension can improve flexibility and movement, as well as reduce the levels of blood lactate concentration, helping you get back on your feet sooner after exercise.

How does Contrast Therapy Work?

So, how does contrast therapy work? It’s quite simple to do contrast therapy at home. You’ll need two baths of water, one of which is hot and the other is cold. For specific areas such as limbs, you can use a smaller container. You then alternate submerging the affected area in each one for a given period. Usually, the cold water should be around 5-15°C, and the warm water should be between 35-45°C. Aim to spend 1-2 minutes in the cold water, and 3-4 in the warm, for a total of around 20 minutes. 

Of course, you may have seen professional athletes on Instagram take the process to the next level and use full-body warm/cold baths after training or competition. In this case, the timings remain roughly the same. It’s worth noting that this process is nothing new, the inhabitants of Scandinavian and alpine countries have long enjoyed a hot sauna, followed by a dip in a cold lake. 

Which Type of Therapy is Best?

Knowing which therapy to use, and when, depends on your injury’s stage and nature. For example, acute injuries such as knocks and strains benefit most from cold therapy in the first 48 hours to reduce inflammation and pain. Chronic pain and stiffness, perhaps as a result of exercise, will benefit from thermotherapy and contrast therapy best. The increased blood flow will help you recover, increase mobility, and reduce your chances of aggravating the injury.

Combining Cryo or Contrast Therapy with Compression

Adding compression therapy into the thermotherap mix can maximise the benefits of both. At a practical level, the compression helps to ensure a good contact between the skin and the hot or cold water. Additionally, compression can help reduce swelling and inflammation, so when combined with the positive effects of the cold therapy, it can lead to faster recovery. Finally, combing compression therapy with heat therapy can help increae blood flow to the affected area, helping the body’s natural recovery.

The CTC-7 Iceless Therapy Device

CTC-7 Iceless Therapy Device

If you’re a keen athlete, are recovering from a serious injury, or are a medical professional, you should consider the CTC-7 device. We truly believe it’s a game-changer in injury recovery. This innovative device seamlessly integrates all three therapies (cryotherapy, thermotherapy, and contrast therapy) along with compression therapy, offering a one-stop solution for athletes and individuals on the mend.

The CTC-7 offers numerous advantages:

  • Faster recovery: Reduce healing time and get back to your passion sooner.
  • Improved performance: Enhance flexibility, range of motion, and muscle function.
  • Reduced pain and inflammation: Manage discomfort and promote healing throughout the recovery process.
  • Preventive care: Minimise the risk of reinjury and maintain optimal physical condition.

The CTC-7 boasts precise temperature control to tailor the therapy to your specific needs, within a range of 6°C to 45°C, and iceless cryotherapy and thermotherapy make using it with one of our dedicated wraps a breeze.

Choose pre-programmed settings or create personalised routines with customisable treatment protocols, while integrated compression therapy further enhances blood flow and reduces swelling.

To find out more about CTC-7, don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to talk you through it.